What’s With All the Strong Antioxidants Hype?

antioxidants

If you have read any health-related articles or watched any similar news segments, there is a fair chance that at least at some point you may have come across the term ‘antioxidants’. Regular readers and viewers of such material may point out that it is discussed way too often, often to the point that one may be led to believe that is just another marketing buzz word. After all, overload of any repeated terms may make one numb and uninterested in the underlying science. So, let us take a moment to understand what Strong antioxidants are all about

Dissecting the term antioxidant

As you may have noticed, the term is an antonym of something: anti-oxidant. It is a biological term, and it denotes a substance that counters, or hinders an oxidant. In order to understand what is an antioxidant, you need to understand what is an oxidant, and particularly, oxidation.

What is oxidation and why prevent it?

An oxidant is an oxidising agent, or a substance that causes oxidation. It is a specific kind of chemical reaction which may be very familiar to those who took any college-level chemistry class. It is quite common in nature. In fact, combustion, or burning of anything in the air is an example of an oxidation reaction.

So, if it is quite common and natural, then why prevent it? Actually, the body depends on certain kinds of oxidation reactions, but it is necessary to prevent some bad kinds of oxidation reactions. These reactions are caused by certain special kinds of oxidants. These oxidants are super reactive, or produce extremely reactive by-products. Such hyper-reactive oxidants which are found in the body are free radicals. Some examples are the superoxide anion (•O2) and hydroxyl radical (•OH), as well as hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) which decomposes to give other free radicals.

These oxidants are extremely reactive, and can react with essentially anything that they touch, including cell walls, DNA and other vital components. The damage caused to DNA can be a contributing factor towards cancer. Even other damaged parts cause significant stress on the body. This is called as the oxidative stress. The body is equipped to handle such stress, but when there is an imbalance and there is more damage than what the body can handle, it leads to various adverse effects. Antioxidants are such substances that have a very high tendency to react with such oxidants, and in effect, neutralise them before they can cause damage to your body. Strong antioxidants will have a greater affinity to neutralise oxidants. This is why antioxidants are beneficial for your health.

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Where do oxidants come from?

These oxidants are formed naturally in the body due to various metabolic processes, and hence you cannot completely avoid them. However, in recent times the body is exposed to a lot more oxidants as a result of pollution, since breaking down of pollutants in the body create much more oxidants. Breaking down some medicines also releases a significant quantity of oxidants. Another major cause of the increase in oxidants is exposure to radiation, especially solar radiation. Oxidative damage is commonly observed in sunburnt skin.

Where do I get antioxidants from?

In order to get enough antioxidants, it is recommended that you consume plenty of fruits and vegetables, as well as diverse meats and fish. There are plenty of sources of antioxidants for vegans as well as meat lovers. However, there are some foods that are particularly rich in antioxidants. One popular example is chocolate. Usually, dark chocolate is recommended due to low sugar content. Another popular example is grape seed extract. It contains a class of particularly strong antioxidants called oligomeric procyanidins, along with other antioxidants such as Vitamin E and some other flavonoids. A popular way of consumption of grape is red wine, however, regular consumption of alcohol may not be suitable for everyone. However, you can find grape seed extract, which contains all these compounds can be easily added to your diet. Organic grape seed extract, in particular, is quite useful for improving health by avoiding excessive oxidative damage as well as any harmful pesticides.

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